Forum_10/22_bp, Students to speak on civil restraints by government

By Gus Bode

Student Speakers Forum open to all undergraduates

Undergraduates will have a chance Wednesday to share their views of whether the U.S. government should be allowed to limit citizens’ civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.

And through the interactive Student Speakers Forum at 7 p.m. in the Lesar Law Auditorium, students won’t even have to speak to share their opinion, as the room is divided into three groups representing different views.


“The audience is divided down the middle, and if you hear an argument and you’re persuaded to change your beliefs, you can move to either side of the audience,” said Jonathan Gray, co-coordinator of the event. “This gives everyone some indication of where you stand on the issue.”

A similar forum also took place in April, but the topic was whether prayer should be allowed during SIUC graduation ceremonies. Gray said a new topic will be picked each semester and the event was first put together with students in Speech Communication 101 classes in mind. Now, the forum has become a way to get any student involved in sharing his or her opinions and speaking in front of large groups.

“The goal is to make this as open to the campus community as possible,” Gray said. “We’re trying to provide an on-campus event that allows any student the opportunity to express themselves in a semi-formal way, even if they’re coming in with an impromptu presentation.”

Gray said about half of the speakers will be called on from the audience, and students will have no more than five minutes to express their views. The rest of the speakers have had about a month to work on their presentations and will go first.

“There will be about a half hour for folks that are moved by the speakers to have the chance to stand up and make impromptu presentations,” said Gray, adding that the forum will end promptly at 8 p.m., even if students are engaged in a heated debate.

“They’ll be encouraged to continue discussing outside the auditorium if they want to,” he said.

In picking the topic for this and future forums, Gray said teaching assistants in Speech Communication 101 and other classes pull topics from students; particularly topics that will build controversy and raise discussions. Another possible topic for Wednesday’s forum was whether the U.S. should go to war with Iraq, but Gray said the group was afraid that decision would already be made by the time the forum came around.


If interest grows in the forums, Gray said the forums may take place more than once a semester. But right now, once a semester gives students enough preparation time to sit down and construct a solid speech to give while balancing time for their classes.

Along with picking a side depending on where they sit in the auditorium, students will be forced to make a decision based on how they leave. Gray said they will have two exits, one opposing the governments limiting of civil liberties to fight terrorism, and one agreeing with it. Last spring, the students were split, 33-33, on whether prayer should be allowed at graduation.

“Some people may decide they don’t want to speak, but by just being there, participating or not, you’re offering your opinion by where you sit and how you exit the room.”

Reporter Brian Peach can be reached at [email protected]